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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Analysts: Forces Seek Rout, Not Rescue

Russian forces pounding the siege village of Pervomaiskoye are intent mainly on destroying Chechen rebel hostage-takers and see the freeing of the captives as a secondary consideration, military analysts said Tuesday.


But they said that wiping out the experienced and well-armed rebels, who had had six days to prepare their defenses, was a difficult operation and that with every passing hour the number of casualties would rise.


"As a military man, I can say that with such heavy weapons being used, there will be many casualties," said Viktor Karpukhin, former head of the crack Alpha anti-terrorist unit.


Russian forces have been battering the village, close to the border between separatist Chechnya and Dagestan, since Monday morning with artillery, rockets and helicopter gunships.


"It looks to me 90 percent a military operation and 10 percent a hostage-freeing operation," said Dmitry Trenin, military analyst at the Carnegie Institute of International Peace in Moscow.


"It seems more and more like a traditional military action against a town captured by hostile forces," said Alexander Konovalov of the USA and Canada Institute in Moscow.


As Russian forces renewed their assault with rockets and shells, the Chechens replied with heavy machine guns and mortars.


"In such a density of fire, it is very unlikely anyone will be left alive," said Karpukhin, now an adviser to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry.


"It is a difficult operation and they [the Russian forces] are not making any very big mistakes. They are doing what they can under the circumstances and this is not a repeat of the earlier debacles of the Chechen war," Trenin added.


However, the analysts said, the Russian military's options are limited. Officials have said special Alpha forces are taking part in the operation but they are neither trained nor equipped for attacking a whole village.


"Alpha is a special unit but not for such military operations. In their tactics, nobody imagined terrorism over such a wide area," Karpukhin said.


"They just do not have the firepower necessary to localize such a situation and neutralize the guerrillas."


Accurate accounts of the situation in the village are almost impossible to come by, as Russian authorities -- perhaps remembering the public outrage spurred by nightly reports of carnage from Grozny and environs as the war in Chechnya got underway -- have kept news agencies at a distance from the hostage situation.